This Week’s Nutrition News Feed

by in Food News, May 16, 2014

pickles

In this week’s news: A buzzkill study related to red wine emerges; a documentary suggests not all calories are created equal; and food dyes appear in unexpected places (et tu, pickles?).

Glass Half Empty, But Cheers Anyway
In 2006, Harvard scientists won the hearts of red wine and chocolate lovers everywhere by reporting that obese mice that were fed huge amounts of resveratrol — a polyphenol antioxidant found in those two foods — tended to live longer and stay healthier. Fast-forward eight years: Resveratrol supplements are a $30 million dollar industry, Dr. Oz enlisted the antioxidant for his “Ultimate Anti-Aging Checklist” and we’ve all been happily drenching ourselves in wine and chocolate. In light of this, a new Johns Hopkins study published Monday in JAMA Internal Medicine was, well, a bit of a downer. Researchers who studied a group of 783 elderly people in Tuscany’s Chianti region found no association between lifespan and the amounts of reseveratrol these individuals had consumed (presumably mostly through wine). That said, there’s still plenty of reason to raise a glass, says David Sinclair, the lead scientist behind the 2006 study. While it would take 100 to 1,000 times the amount of resveratrol you’d get from imbibing to have the kind of health impact he saw in mice, he points out that there are over three dozen other polyphenols in wine, many with similar and complementary sorts of benefits.

When a Calorie Isn’t a Calorie
Earlier this week, New York Times food columnist Mark Bittman called Fed Up the most important documentary since An Inconvenient Truth. (Not lost on Bittman, the two films also share an award-winning producer, Laurie David.) Narrated by co-producer Katie Couric, the new film follows the stories of obese children trying hard to lose weight through dieting. Under the microscope: Sugar, and the fact that we’ve been consuming nearly 25 percent more calories since our 1980s-era shift to a lower fat, higher carbohydrate diet. Among the film’s revelations is data suggesting our metabolism appears to work more slowly when we eat high-carbohydrate diets than when we do high-fat and high-protein ones. The movie also points to research suggesting that not all calories are equal: when we eat high-fiber food such as nuts, for example, we only absorb three-quarters of the calories they contain.

Showing Their True Colors (or Their Not-So-True Ones)
The exact amount of artificial food dyes used in certain processed foods has long been a bit of a mystery, but a new study published in the journal Clinical Pediatrics measured just that, assessing levels in the likes of orange soda, colorful candies and boxed macaroni and cheese. One of the study authors said she was surprised to find the dyes in less-expected products at the grocery store, including pickles, which are often tinted yellow and blue in order to achieve just the right shade of green. Researchers have previously questioned whether there’s a link between such dyes and behavioral issues in children. While findings have not been conclusive, the European Union has required products containing such dyes to carry a warning label since 2010.

A Questionable Pesticide — or Questionable Science?
You might better recognize glyphosate as Roundup, the name it was marketed as back in the ’70s, when it was mostly used on weeds. Now used on common crops like wheat and soy, it has since become the most widely used herbicide in the country. A review published in the journal Interdisciplinary Toxicology last year suggested there’s an association between the pesticide glyphosate and a rise in celiac disease, a story recently re-reported by Outside magazine. It’s a grabbing theory, but not without strong detractors who say the evidence is scant and that a link has by no means been established.

Sara Reistad-Long writes about science, wellness and lifestyle. She is the co-author of The Big New York Sandwich Book and can be followed on Twitter: @sarareistadlong

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